Tuesday 10 May 2011

Would you like a cup of tea?

Ginger bread, Ferrells Bakery Fore Street St Ives
Visual Athletics Club: A nice cup of tea, 2010

Tea is a panacea - a cure-all that we defer to in times of stress. Emotions are mollified by a cup of tea. In hospitals it's an indication of bad news, and if biscuits are produced you know you're really in trouble. Sweetened tea is an alternative to a shot of brandy applied to steady the nerves and becalm an emotional tsunami. As we work hard to control our unspiralling lives we turn to certain crutches to see us through - a cigarette, a large drink but a cup of tea is the anywhere, anytime solution.

Rituals and symbolism that surround tea may be a hangover from the Japanese Tea Ceremony. The UK Tea Council describes its nascence  as coming from 'the Taoist idea of trying to find beauty in the world combined with the Zen Buddhist belief that the mundane and particular were of equal importance with the spiritual and universal. Thus the ritual of tea making expressed the quest of greatness in the smallest details of life, and the formalised acts of graciousness and politeness that are integral to the Ceremony are an outward form of an inner belief in the importance of peace and harmony.' 

By serving tea we could subliminally be tapping into an ancient culture that put tea at the heart of a meditative, highly contemplative ritual, thus lending stability to crisis. A cup of tea remains a fail-safe, a gesture, an acknowledgement of our inability to alter the situation but a remedy seeped in empathy.


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